Vacation Bible Camp 2018!
EPH 4:25-5:2; JN 6:35, 41-51
Last week, every morning, from 9AM until 12noon, the people of St. Matthew’s were “bread for life.”
Our Vacation Bible Camp swung open the chapel doors and invited our community’s children inside. We welcomed our neighbors. We worshipped together. We sang songs about God. We shared stories about holy people. We played games developing peace-building attitudes. And we created art, reminding us of our prayers within our hearts.
It was our annual Vacation Bible Camp where we spent a week on intentional time creating holy community in God’s name. Our “Peace Lab” was truly a ministry of love and hospitality for our neighbors and their children. For me, it is a special time when I understand God the most - a time when God’s spirit empowers us, looks at us at work and play, and says, “it is good.”
Now, that doesn’t mean it is easy! There are bursts of energy coupled with moments of exhaustion. There are scripture stories that are difficult for me to comprehend or even understand and yet we are being called to share and explain them to children.
There are different personalities. Restless energy. Bad mornings. Young folks who can’t articulate their needs! Older folks who don’t recognize the gifts they bring. Unexplained emotional shifts. And yet, in the midst of all this spirit in motion, God says, “it is good.”
And it was. And it is.
It is a time when we open our arms wide and say, “in the midst of all this, come in. We are a holy family. This is holy ground. This is a space where, just as God in Jesus discovered all that it was to live and breath and love and laugh in human flesh, we gather here to do the same.
The writer of the Letter to the Ephesians implores us to, “speak the truth to our neighbors.” All of it. The good. The bad. The mess of it all. - -
This is incarnation. And God says, “it is good.”
In the midst of the “Grace Hurricane,” we discover new truths of our own. - -
As we ask our young people to consider questions of faith, we formulate new ones of our own. - -
What gifts has God given me that I didn’t realize I possessed?
What insights would a child offer on the story of Abraham and Lot or regarding the relationship between King Saul and David?
What does a child pray for?
What do I pray for?
Do I have patience?
Do I have insights to offer about our Holy Story found in the thousands of pages of the Bible?
And what do I know about Jesus, - - about God anyway?
During Vacation Bible Camp, I am always surprised to discover some of the answers to these questions. And most of the time, the answers are so easy to forget. So, the questions come up again.
The letter to Ephesus offers words of encouragement in the midst of all our questions.
The writer says, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.”
Ephesus was a thriving Christian community. Unlike Paul’s letters to other congregations, where there is all sorts of intrigue going on, the people of Ephesus are at peace. Everything is going as planned. The letter mentions that they are peacemakers but there is a war going on. It is a war between “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” These evil forces influence rulers, people in authority, impacting the spirits all the people of God.
The faithful at Ephesus must remain at peace with each other in order to find the energy and the faith to confront and dismantle these cosmic forces which seek to destroy the people of God. The letter calls on all with ears to hear to imitate God, to listen to the spirit, and to learn together how to act like Christ in the world.
Like the faithful of Ephesus, our Vacation Bible Camp built within a week, a community of Christ, seeking to understand how peacemakers can overtake the negative forces that often pull us away from God and from each other. Our week of Vacation Bible Camp stories were grounded in truths spoken by Jesus during his sermon on the mount. Jesus’s beatitudes call us to peacefully resolve life’s most challenging moments.
Monday’s scripture passage, was from the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus sat with his friends on the side of the hill and shared, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
The Sermon on the Mount is familiar to all of us because it is Jesus’ concise summary teaching us how to live. If we put into practice the words that Jesus proclaims, we will truly be God’s people in the world.
We sang “This Little Light of Mine,” prayed for dinosaurs and lions, created peace mobiles, and then went home to rest!
On Tuesday, we discovered in the book of Genesis that Abram and Lot had a problem. There wasn’t enough land. Abram’s and Lot’s herders were looking for additional space for their animals to graze. They were fighting each other. But working together, peacemakers find good ways to solve problems.
Wednesday was our mid-way point. Naomi and Ruth were widows. They were hungry. Naomi encouraged Ruth to glean a nearby field in the middle of the night which landowner Boaz owned. Boaz believed that peacemakers help other people.
On Thursday, our young campers loved the jealousy, lust and violence in the complicated tale of Saul and David and Jonathan and Michal. It takes courage to witness injustice and to speak for human dignity and for others to be able to access their God-given rights. Flying spears and vengeful hearts create opportunities for peacemakers to speak up for what is right.
God gives each of us different gifts. Sometimes when we don’t appreciate the gifts of the other, conflicts arise. Enter Martha and Mary. Martha had the gift of preparation. Mary had the gift of listening. Peacemakers learn to appreciate the gifts of others. But sometimes, we need help doing this. On Friday, with Mary and Martha, we concluded our camp by discovering how sometimes peacemakers must ask for help to resolve conflicts.
So today, we celebrate. We gather here today to eat bread and drink wine so that we can leave this gathering, finding sustenance to continue to minister to our community’s children, to be fed so that we can study and sing and play together, finding nourishment so that we can work faithfully with our coworkers, and be people of faith teaching our friends and families about a meaningful way to live.
Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”
“May we be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”